Robert Adragna, Youth Speak News

Be ready for the COP21 summit

By  Robert Adragna, Youth Speak News
  • November 13, 2015

Mark your calendars. Find all your friends and tell them to do the same. From Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 50,000 heads of state, foreign dignitaries, private sector innovators and environmental advocates will gather in Paris to discuss global initiatives related to curbing the effects of climate change — this year’s biggest UN environmental conference. Frankly, I can barely control my excitement.

COP21 (Conference of Parties) will be a large leap towards building a sustainable future. The world’s nations have to understand the grave importance of meeting this target and have been working to negotiate an international agreement to tackle climate change for the last 20 years. But it hasn’t been easy.

Previous attempts, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations, had moderate success but were largely ignored by many of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters (including Canada). However, with the threats of climate change mounting, these negotiations are expected to be different.

COP21 aims to achieve a universal and legally binding climate agreement signed essentially by all of the world’s 196 countries. The agreement will hopefully provide a substantive plan to keep warming within two degrees Celsius using mechanisms such as binding emissions targets for all the world’s biggest polluters and a purported $100 billion (U.S.) fund to help developing countries build “greener” infrastructure.

Though no nation can be forced to comply with international law, the agreement will specify regulatory mechanisms to ensure that signatory nations co-operate with the agreement’s terms.

My excitement about a COP21 universal climate agreement stems from the fact that its success is also a success for the values promoted by Catholic social teachings, particularly those that relate to caring for God’s creation. God calls humanity to respect and live in balanced harmony with our natural environment. It is very important that we do so.

For me, being in nature is a form of prayer because I feel God’s presence in His beautiful handiwork and cannot help but give thanks for its presence. Breathable air, water, food, warmth — God has generously provided us with everything we need to live in content comfort. How lucky are we that He has given humanity “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth” (Genesis 1: 26).

However, humanity’s “dominion” over the Earth does not entitle us to act as its cruel masters, exploiting its capacity without any consideration for environmental sustainability.

Climate change will cause extreme suffering for all of humanity, especially for those people in poverty. All the suffering future generations will be forced to endure will be blamed directly on our generation’s selfish exploitation of the Earth’s resources. Our current behaviour blatantly disobeys Jesus’ golden rule. We should be treating others, in this case future generations, the way we would want to be treated.

But beyond the human factor, to ignore the needs of our planet is to show blatant disrespect to God. We are not giving thanks for His benevolence by destroying what He has so carefully constructed. Rather, we are behaving quite a bit like spoiled children — always wanting more than what has already been graciously given to us.

So let us live COP21’s spirit of environmental stewardship in our daily lives. We can accomplish this in the most significant way by making minor, eco-friendly changes in our daily lifestyles. Also, we can ensure that our political affiliations lie with parties that also value God’s creation in their environmental policies. Working together, we have the collective power to preserve planet Earth for many generations to come.

(Adragna, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Bishop Allen Academy in Toronto.)

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